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:x How do i further my improv vocabulary, i keep getting these vague responses to "transcribe" and "listen" but honestly i really do that a lot, but my improv and understanding of vocab and jazz hasnt developed much

For instance, I do tons of transccribing now, Lots of easy thinks like Lester and miles, but once i get the solos down i dont no wut to do with this stuff

is it just a matter of memorizing certain licks and the chords they go with and applying them when i come across them?

i want the stuff i hear and transcribe to come naturally to me when improving

how do i analyze transcriptions or make use of them in the correct way?

Also, how do u play longer ideas or runs when improving? i keep thinking that i cant think of the notes that fast. it seems my best attempt is just playing kinda random notes within the chords, but i cant think fast enuff to stream them into a melody

Can anyone give me any tips or ideas to improve my improvising
 

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I don't mean to be curt with you, or to over simplify, but, find a pro and take a couple of lessons. Also, it sounds like you might need to connect your inner self with your practicing, or not/the opposite:) . It might give you some direction.
 

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OK, here's what you do.

Take your transcription and mark what licks and phrases you want to incorporate into your playing. Figure out in what context they fit (Major/minor/dominant chords; ii-V7-I's; etc). Then practice them in all 12 keys until you don't have to think about them.

Now here's the key. Play through tunes and deliberately use these licks and phrases wherever they are applicable. When you learn a new word, it doesn't always just jump out in conversation. You have to think and sometimes force yourself to use the word until it becomes part of your vocabulary. Same thing with musical vocabulary.

Let's say that there's a ii-V7-I lick you want to make part of your vocabulary. First learn it in all 12 keys. Then open up the real book and start improvising. Every time a ii-V7-I occurs, play that lick. Do a lot of tunes in various keys. After a while, it should become a natural part of your improv vocabulary.
 

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Hey there my ruminid friend. It sounds like you're on the right general track and making some important headway. One thing I think is really important is to ask the question "why am I practicing?" I know it sounds obvious, but it's a much more complicated issue than you'd expect. If the goal of your practice sessions is to just generally "get better" with no specific target or goal in mind, you may have less success than if you tackle a specific problem. In your case, you identified a big one that we all face: coming up with long, melodically-coherent musical phrases. There are a lot of ways of approaching this problem, but transcribing is probably not the best, except from a philosophical point of view. The real point of practice is to give yourself a set of tools that you can use to fashion phrases and ideas out of when you are performing. Transcribing shows you how other folks solved some of these problems, but they may not necessarily relate to what you hear in your own mind's ear. Also, replicating or making variations on someone else's vocabulary only gets you so far, and is ultimately an artistic dead end even if you sound just like <insert famous sax player here>. So, going back to the problem at hand. Start simple, with long phrases over a single chord, or perhaps alternating chords like Maiden Voyage or So What. Next, ascend to three chords like a blues. And so on... the trick is to only work on solving one thing at a time. As chords become more disjunct (or frequently changing) the key is to understand what notes link-up between chords. These are often referred to as guide tones, and there is a lot of information on this site about them. I also recommend my friend David Valdez's blog: http://davidvaldez.blogspot.com which is full of great info on this. SOTW author Steve Neff (http://www.neffmusic.com/cms/index.php) or Nefertiti as he is known here, came up with an excellent set of exercises as well. So, as you can see, once you decide the problem you are trying to solve, finding information about it becomes much easier. From there, you can incorporate other solutions like articulation, accents, chord substitutions, etc. Just don't try and do it all at once. Transcribing is a way of "doing it all at once" and has limited long-term practical use other than giving you a reference point.
 

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Another possible approach which i hope doesn't contradict the previous stuff which seems good: practise rhythm rather than learning "licks" and then trying to cram them in. I'm not saying "licks" have no place but your sense of flow is much more important. "Sense of flow" is more related to feeling rhythmically comfortable. Example: put on a favourite track (pref. medium tempo) practise clapping then playing patterns using the rhythms you hear rather than the pitches. Use a simple scale eg major, minor, major or minor pentatonic for your note choices when you pick up the sax. But spend some time clapping and singing along to get some rhythmic ideas. When you start playing use a simple backing or play solo or with metronome. The rhythm in one's playing is at least as important as the melodic element, IMHO.
 

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RootyTootoot said:
Another possible approach which i hope doesn't contradict the previous stuff which seems good: practise rhythm rather than learning "licks" and then trying to cram them in. I'm not saying "licks" have no place but your sense of flow is much more important. "Sense of flow" is more related to feeling rhythmically comfortable. Example: put on a favourite track (pref. medium tempo) practise clapping then playing patterns using the rhythms you hear rather than the pitches. Use a simple scale eg major, minor, major or minor pentatonic for your note choices when you pick up the sax. But spend some time clapping and singing along to get some rhythmic ideas. When you start playing use a simple backing or play solo or with metronome. The rhythm in one's playing is at least as important as the melodic element, IMHO.
Great suggestion! Studying rhythm(s) is often neglected by aspiring improvisers. Tapping out a rhythm and then playing this on a scale or chord is a good place to start. Feeling the pulse of the music and having a musical conversation with rhythm is the goal.......
 

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Improvisation is just about expressing musical ideas (normally) in the form of a song. I think when analyzing a solo it's more important to connect with the emotion and understand how it adds to the piece as a whole rather than the individual notes. Other people might see it differently, but that is my take on it. I wouldn't get too hung up on theory...instead just play without thinking about what the chord is and just play the note(s) you want to hear. Practicing and understanding chords and scales and progressions furthers our ability to pick the notes we want to use.

Just relax and blow your horn, play the notes you want to play, good luck
 

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Find a rhythm section that will be content playing modally and focusing on pocket and interaction. Learn how you naturally phrase, introduce small fragments of what you already like into it and use it as a thematic basis. Choose a key sig and go for it. I've found that it's pretty important to designate something like "three flats" as opposed to "key of Eb" because specifying Eb often implies certain tonal gravity whereas just saying 3 flats is less likely to do so.

Getting rid of the confines changes as part of the learning process will allow you figure out how to deal with the scaffolding, the groove and note pool. Trying to work on improvising while dealing with changes all the time is like trying to learn learn a new stroke (swimming reference) with jeans and a t-shirt on. That's just me, though.
 

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Eternal Search for the Mystery Black Notes...

Matt, it's not just you. I tend to think of just twelve different diatonic fingering patterns or key signatures too. Or course, I use other symmetrical scales like whole tone & diminished. I use different pentatonics too, but they are like the short version of diatonic key signatures, five instead of seven notes.

Jason pretty much summed it up. I think when I was a young student, I thought that there was one thing, trick, system or something that would allow me to freely improvise. There are many, many approaches, ways to think, practice. There are an endless number of ways to learn vocabulary and to use it. There are no short cuts.

I have done a lot of transcribing, but only to rip tunes for gigs. It is great ear training and it's interesting to analyze what is going on compositionally. It is not a waste of time, but for me, I've got note books with years worth of licks, phrases, patterns, sequences that I have composed my self. As much as I tried to be Dexter, Trane and Brecker, I'm not, and will never be. I am me and this is my stuff. That is where I invest my time.

I'm sort of self taught. I have taken lessons, master classes and it is a short cut of sorts, because teachers can give you an over view of how all the different aspects of improv work and give you some direction and focus. In the end it's you and the horn. It's up to you to make your own kind of sense of all this stuff. Teachers, reading books, listening to guys on internet forums are kinda like theoretical knowledge. Until you stick the horn in your mouth and work your "head chops" out, you will not have the experiential knowledge that is what you want.

A couple of weeks of working on this or that, isn't magically make you burn. A couple years of working on this and that, might only get you warmed up. I guess what I'm saying is that, it's a lot of work, on lots and lots of different levels. At some point, it will all start to to work for you. I have been working on all kinds of sequences in every key for ten years. The more stuff I get under my fingers and ingrained in my head, the more possibilities I see and hear. It is endless...

I got more ideas in my head that I and even get out now. I realize that I have maybe neglected other compositional devices. Rooty and Wersax brought up rhythms and time playing. I'm just now trying to focus on trying to play complete melodic and rhythmic ideas in phrases. Reading between the lines, what WannaB said is very important too. Yeah, I can stream vast quantities of sixteenth notes, but I ain't really sayin' that much. It makes more sense to the listener if you phrasing is rhythymnically strong and you hit the guide tones that Jason talks about.

What Matt says about getting with a rhythm section and playing 4 and 8 bar phrases over a one chord groove is a good place to start. Then blues and tunes with changes. Going back to what I was saying before, until I started working on tunes where the chords are changing every measure or every beat, I wasn't really understanding how to play over Bb7 one chord groove tunes. I think the way to view learning, is not just front to back, boom you can play now. It's back to front and from all the edges toward the middle and from the middle out in all directions. Wow, I'll bet that make a lot of sense and sounds easy.

Good luck.
 

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The biggest stumbling block, IMO, is impatience.... it's important to realize that a significant part of the master's art is making the difficult sound easy.... for example, listen to an Art Pepper solo, in that relaxed, laid back West Coast style......... sounds easy, right? WRONG!! Pepper had a very projecting sound (tone practice), great articulation (articulation exercises), a great harmonic sense (ear training, improv practice), a great, precise sense of rhythm, and of course, a brilliant creative mind............. the trick is to break it down into manageable elements and use your practice time to improve those very specific things. Does your articulation suck? Practice articulation exercises!! If you want to improve, you (or a good teacher) have to be able to honestly evaluate your relative weaknesses, and focus on those. SOTW is a great resource for specific practice suggestions to improve specific areas of your playing.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Wow, lots of feedback thanks a lot!
As far as theory goes for Improv, im sort of stuck too, like i no basic theory i guess. i no modes, and spelling out chords and chord symbols etc

is knowing lots of theory essential to improvising? If so what aspects should i focus on or learn about in terms of theory?
 

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I hate plugging my own stuff but you might want to check out some of it. The Approach Note books and Dominant Bebop method really helped my playing a lot as far as playing long flowing lines and building up some speed to my lines. I wouldn't recommend it if it didn't help me and I see a bunch of my students really doing well with it. The thing is as with anything, you have to devote the time, focus and energy to mastering one thing. Like mouthpieces I think many of us will buy a book and then shortly move on to another book or method. It takes time, patience and faith that your heading down the right path. A great teacher helps a student to stay focused on the course and direction I think.
 

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The more theory you know, the more you can understand what somebody is doing when you look at their solos. You see things you saw before but went ??? Things like chromatic approach notes, diminished chords superimposed over dominants, chord substitutions, bebop scales, etc. . .
 

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I have been thinking about this thread all morning. When people tell me I sound good, it just makes me cringe like they are patronizing me. I think I suck. I'm a student and will always be a student of the horn and music.

There are some little pearls of wisdom on this thread. I liked Alsdiego's line; "The biggest stumbling block, IMO, is impatience..."

Saxcow91 ask, is knowing lots of theory essential to improvising? I'm going to make a sweeping generalization here and say, no. Erroll Garner couldn't read or write, but he could hear and listen to what was coming out. Theory is a power tool. I can cut a 2x4 with a hand saw but I like using a Skillsaw wormdrive 77. It frees me to think about what I'm building rather than the drudgery of sawing back and forth.

Theory is not the end all, be all. It is just a tool to help you organize what you hear when you listen, and what you want to say with your vocabulary. What is the most important thing to work on? Everything all the time. The most important thing to do, stick the horn in your mouth. Most of the baddest players that I know play all the time or as much time as they can afford.

Dude, there are only twelve different notes, after that it's all down hill. Start somewhere. You had to learn how to read and your times tables when you were in elementary school. You got through it and now it has been internalized to where you don't have wonder how to express yourself. You know that 2 times four is eight, you don't have to push two piles of four pennies together and count them.

Mostly, I was wasting my life on YouTube this morning. Maybe not, every thing is important on some level. I stumbled on this Joe Pass clip. I think there is some relevance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIOp4TLTPYg&NR=1
 

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tenorcat said:
Matt, it's not just you. I tend to think of just twelve different diatonic fingering patterns or key signatures too. Or course, I use other symmetrical scales like whole tone & diminished. I use different pentatonics too, but they are like the short version of diatonic key signatures, five instead of seven notes.

Jason pretty much summed it up. I think when I was a young student, I thought that there was one thing, trick, system or something that would allow me to freely improvise. There are many, many approaches, ways to think, practice. There are an endless number of ways to learn vocabulary and to use it. There are no short cuts.

I have done a lot of transcribing, but only to rip tunes for gigs. It is great ear training and it's interesting to analyze what is going on compositionally. It is not a waste of time, but for me, I've got note books with years worth of licks, phrases, patterns, sequences that I have composed my self. As much as I tried to be Dexter, Trane and Brecker, I'm not, and will never be. I am me and this is my stuff. That is where I invest my time.

I'm sort of self taught. I have taken lessons, master classes and it is a short cut of sorts, because teachers can give you an over view of how all the different aspects of improv work and give you some direction and focus. In the end it's you and the horn. It's up to you to make your own kind of sense of all this stuff. Teachers, reading books, listening to guys on internet forums are kinda like theoretical knowledge. Until you stick the horn in your mouth and work your "head chops" out, you will not have the experiential knowledge that is what you want.

A couple of weeks of working on this or that, isn't magically make you burn. A couple years of working on this and that, might only get you warmed up. I guess what I'm saying is that, it's a lot of work, on lots and lots of different levels. At some point, it will all start to to work for you. I have been working on all kinds of sequences in every key for ten years. The more stuff I get under my fingers and ingrained in my head, the more possibilities I see and hear. It is endless...

I got more ideas in my head that I and even get out now. I realize that I have maybe neglected other compositional devices. Rooty and Wersax brought up rhythms and time playing. I'm just now trying to focus on trying to play complete melodic and rhythmic ideas in phrases. Reading between the lines, what WannaB said is very important too. Yeah, I can stream vast quantities of sixteenth notes, but I ain't really sayin' that much. It makes more sense to the listener if you phrasing is rhythymnically strong and you hit the guide tones that Jason talks about.

What Matt says about getting with a rhythm section and playing 4 and 8 bar phrases over a one chord groove is a good place to start. Then blues and tunes with changes. Going back to what I was saying before, until I started working on tunes where the chords are changing every measure or every beat, I wasn't really understanding how to play over Bb7 one chord groove tunes. I think the way to view learning, is not just front to back, boom you can play now. It's back to front and from all the edges toward the middle and from the middle out in all directions. Wow, I'll bet that make a lot of sense and sounds easy.

Good luck.
I agree with you about the use of other scales (symmetrical and otherwise) but I figured I'd break it down to LCD.

Another way I mess around with things is to just introduce on chromatic note at a time; each new one triggers a new tritone and therefore a new dom 7 chord and all of its associated candy (dim doms, etc). This way I'm able to stay somewhat 'in' while dressing it up with musical lingerie. I have a truck load of stuff I've used over the years and given to guys in my group for stuff to work with while we shed/explore/etc. I hope this helps a bit more, saxcow.
 

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As stated in many of the previous posts, you need a vocabulary and there are many good suggestion on how to build your vocabulary.

But first, and this is really the heart of the thing, you must have something to say.
 

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Saxcow,

You asked how to construct a nice long improv line..... you can, of course, "borrow" a nice line from your favorite player, and that's a good approach. Here's another way to think about it:

All jazz styles have certain "rules" to which the artist conforms in order that the listener can understand the language, so to speak. The trick is be creative within that style's framework. For example, let's say you're trying to develop a bebop line. Here are some "rules" for that line to keep it within the bebop tradition:

1. Use voice leading and chromaticism. For example, when going from the ii chord to the V7 chord, lead into the third of V7 chromatically (see below example).

2. To make the line interesting, don't do a straight run all the time. Use turns and leaps.

3. Throw in a Bird-ism to confirm the bebop tradition. A classic is the 3rd leaping up to flat 9 (see below).

Now, let's construct an original line using the above "rules" as guidlines. We'll use the first four bars of "What is This Thing Called Love", keyed for alto:

E-7b5 A7(#9) D-7 D-7

This is called a minor cadence. For the following line, start on G above the staff, go up the scale to the Bb, then all the way down the scale to the C#, down to the A, then up to B, D, down to C#, then leap up to Bb, then down the scale to F:

G, A, Bb, A, G, F, E, D, C#, A, B, D, C#, (leap up, then down) Bb, A, G, F

Note the chromatic approach to the 3rd of the A7 chord.......

A great book that outlines the "bebop rules" is called "Essential Jazz Lines in the Style of Charlie Parker", by Cory Christensen............. it discusses these principles in detail........... once you understand these basic "rules", you can use them to work out your own lines..........

Al
 

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I hear what you're saying. I have a lot of similar problems. Right now I'm working with some Steve neff patterns, running the ii-V7-I stuff, but also learning each lick in relation to it's chord (so, like, taking the Cm lick), then just trying them out on a million Aebersolds. There's a value in understanding WHY something is a lick, or a pattern, and why it works....

This has helped me.
And it's starting to come together....
Don't give up.
 
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